But Borman, who was born with spina bifida, said she'll keep trying. “I'm actually encouraged by the delays,” she said. “It shows people are using it.”
By the end of the week, as the federal government had added more computer servers, insurers and individuals reported some cases of successful online enrollment.
The good news for supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was the unexpectedly heavy public interest in visiting the exchange websites and phoning the call centers as soon as they opened Oct. 1. By the end of day one, HealthCare.gov had more than 4.7 million unique visitors, a figure that jumped to 7 million as of Oct. 2. That undercut arguments that Americans don't want or need the reform law. On the other hand, the technical difficulties highlighted the peril that if Americans come to see the law as a flop, its foes may have an easier time gutting it.
The open enrollment period extends through March 31, 2014, and consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 to obtain coverage by Jan. 1.
“There were five times more users in the marketplace this morning than have ever been on Medicare.gov at one time,” President Barack Obama said Oct. 1. “That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country, and that's a good thing.”
Many visitors to the federal HealthCare.gov website last week were met with messages informing them that the system was down or asking them to wait until they could be redirected to the login page. Acknowledging the delays, HHS officials urged patience and said they were working hard to address the problems. “With any new product launch, there will be glitches,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, during an Oct. 1 call with reporters. “As things arise, we will fix them.”
In an Oct. 3 e-mail, HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said experts had been “working around the clock and were able to expand system capacity somewhat overnight, cutting by one-third the volume of people waiting to apply.”
Obama noted that Apple recently found glitches in its new mobile operating system. “They found a glitch, so they fixed it,” he said. “I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't.”
But experts say the rough start highlights the daunting task of creating a sophisticated online enrollment system capable of communicating and connecting with a range of government agencies and processing huge amounts of user data.
“With a project of this size and magnitude, the reality is there will be technical challenges,” said Dan Schuyler, director of exchange technology at Leavitt Partners, which has worked with a number of state-run exchanges. “I thought there would be problems determining eligibility for premium subsidies. I didn't anticipate that you wouldn't even be able to create an account.”
He contends that federal and state officials and their contractors didn't have enough time to adequately build the exchanges and do the necessary testing. Other experts say the government lacked enough computer servers for the volume of traffic and data. “It's very concerning,” Schuyler added. “If we're seeing these kinds of difficulties now, what happens down the road when the processes are more complicated?”